If you’ve been staggering through the streets of London of late you may have clocked some funny murals and slogans in a curiously similar typeface, painted on undesirable street objects such as bins, skips, old mattresses and the like. This is the work of one of our all time favourite illustrators Ian Stevenson. His outdoor antics have caught the attention of a certain Russell Brand, who used Ian’s eye-catching, no-bullshit work to promote his somewhat controversial new book. We had a chat with Ian about what he’s been up to of late, and what it was like making work for Russell.
You’ve been making a lot of murals lately. What’s drawn you to painting big?
It’s great to see the work at a different scale and I always like to work big. It’s often practical reasons that stop me but when the opportunity presents itself it’s great. As well as being commissioned to do some large-scale work I’ve also been doing lots of painting on the streets, I suppose I am in the mood and wanted to get away from the desk. When I’m out painting, I forget about emails and all that other nonsense. I just go out with some brushes, paint and a camera and paint on whatever appears as I walk about.
Do you ever get told off?
People often ask what I’m up to, so I tell them and once they see I’m not trying to steal anything they let me carry on. Most people are just interested and say hello and I have a nice chat with them.
Sounds a bit obvious, but what are the practical differences as an artist to scaling up your work to that level?
Sometimes it’s daunting but I find if I just go for it, everything works out fine and I wonder what I was stressing about.
How did you end up working with Russell Brand?
Through a tangled web of connections. I’d worked with Street Art London who curate the Village Underground wall and they’d worked with Russell’s publisher on a different book. The idea of doing a mural came up and my work seemed to fit.
Is he a fan of your work?
He said he has some of my books which freaked me out as he’s really famous and I work on my own in a room.
Tell us about making the mural for him, did he have much say in the finished product?
I sent over some of my ideas to get us started, then we had a chat on the phone, he sent me the book to read, I did some more drawings and he particularly liked one so I painted it big. For the book launch, I just got on with it and drew all the sketches I’d done while working out the mural and also a bunch of extra ones too.
“He said he has some of my books which freaked me out as he’s really famous and I work on my own in a room.”
Ian Stevenson on making a mural for Russell Brand
How’s business these days for you generally? You seem to be gaining lots of attention
Yes it’s good and I’m enjoying people getting in touch with interesting projects to get involved in. I don’t chase commissions and if they appear that’s great but it’s not why I do what I do. Day to day I enjoy just getting on with my own thing.
Do you find a lot of big brands are going in for your dark humour these days?
The ones that are up for taking risks and trying new things like it but some brands are still scared of offending people. I personally don’t think it’s that dark and most of my chats with friends are quite dark and it feels normal. It’s a shame more big brands don’t give the public enough credit. They think they’ll be offended by seeing something slightly risky, and feel the need to be safe, BORING!!! I find connecting to like-minded people through the internet and social media is more exciting for me, as I can do what I like.
Word of warning/advice for anyone who’s doing illustration work for a big client?
If you’re being asked to pitch for a job then don’t do it for free.
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